Santos Narrabri coal seam gas EIS draws thousands of submissions

The NSW government has received thousands of submissions about Santos all-encompassing report regarding its Narrabri Gas Project.

As the public exhibition draws to a close there are reports up to 10,000 submissions have been made, including 6500 objections to the project, which were hand delivered to the NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) by an alliance of anti-coal seam gas groups.

“The Department has received thousands of submissions on the Narrabri Gas Project,” a DPE spokesperson said.

“Once all submissions have been collated at the end of the public exhibition period, we will be able to confirm the final number.

“We are encouraging everyone who wants to have a say on the proposal to make an online submission before the public exhibition closes next week on 22 May.”

NSW crosses border to see how Queensland does it

While the public feedback was rolling in, NSW DPE took a field trip to Queensland, to inspect the state’s CSG projects near Chinchilla.

DPE resource assessments director Mike Young said planning, environment and water experts went on the fact-finding mission to gain a better understanding of the issues faced by communities and government regulators associated with the development of the coal seam gas industry.

“While the Queensland gas fields are much larger than what is being proposed in NSW, our trip last week helped us gain an appreciation of the kind of issues that will need to be considered in the assessment of Narrabri Gas Project,” Mr Young said.

“In particular, it was useful to learn about how the impacts of the coal seam gas industry on water resources are being assessed and managed in Queensland, and how the interests of farmers are being protected.”

Protesters rally at Nationals conference

On Friday night, a small but vocal group of anti-CSG activist protested a Nationals meeting in Narrabri.

The event was attended by a number of high-ranking Nationals' politicians, including NSW Nationals leader and Deputy Premier John Barilaro, Parkes MP Mark Coulton and Barwon MP Kevin Humphries.

Narrabri farmer Stuart Murray said the negative impacts of the projects did not way up against its “minimal positive impacts”.

“Hopefully [Mr Barilaro] takes the message into the event that clearly our electorate does not want this industry to take hold,” Mr Murray said.

“We do not want the Narrabri Gas Project to go ahead. We now know there is no gas crisis, but a price crisis.”

North West Alliance spokesman Peter Small said the electorate had been let down by the Nationals' support of CSG.

“In 2011 Kevin Humphries was against the industry from stating, now it's a total backflip for him to be singing nothing but praises for coal seam gas. It's causing us all whiplash.”

“We are very upset with the Nationals decision to class us as second class citizens compared to their seat on the North Coast. Why is it OK to cancel licences across the entire state, but to leave ours open for sacrifice?

“We have the same concerns that they had, if not more. Hopefully they do another backflip and end this industry.

“CSG has no social licence here, clearly represented by over 10,000 submissions already handed to the Department of Planning against the Narrabri Gas Project. It's time the Nationals return to representing the people of our electorate and the great state of NSW.”

Narrabri Shire Council presents draft submission

Narrabri Shire Council is finalising its submission on Santos EIS, adding some points raised by the community in a public forum.

A council spokesperson said the community identified a series of concerns around the project including the potential contamination of ground water for stock and domestic use, potential health impacts, ongoing environmental issues, disposal of extracted water and the issues around land access onto private property.

Positive commentary has also been considered with some in the community expressing acceptance of the safety measures introduced by the industry and the significant boost this project could have to our local economy with the creation of new jobs and opportunity to attract new industry.

Council said it was “very pleased” with the submission. Development and economic growth director Tony Meppem said council focused on addressing the issues that would directly impact the community.

“To enable staff to review the document effectively they have targeted areas that deal specifically with major issues of concern to sections of the community,” Mr Meppem.

“With the more complex issues concerning ground water and the health impacts of CSG, council recognises it does not have the technical capability to address these issues. In this situation, council is reliant on the relevant consent authorities to provide the technical guidance and conduct a rigorous review prior to approval.

“Within council’s submission we ask the state government to apply the precautionary principle in the assessment and potential development consent conditions for this proposal. As well as this we also request the Planning Assessment Commission conduct peer reviews on the more critical sections of the Environmental Impact Statement.

The final version of Council’s submission will be available on Council’s website following the meeting for the public to easily access.

In 2013, Council adopted an Extractive Industries Policy to provide some guidance to Council staff and the community when dealing with the growing extractive industries. This policy attempts to draw balance between the beneficial impacts on the local and state economy and potential impacts on air and water quality.

“From this policy, council demands a ‘nil’ effect position in regard to the quality of surface water, domestic, stock and irrigation aquifers used by our community,” Mr Meppem said

“Council takes very seriously its role in ensuring that the planning process is thorough and all economic and environmental factors are appropriately considered before State Significant Developments are determined.

“Should those developments be determined favourably the community should have faith in the monitoring programs in place to protect the local environment.”

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